Cheating and Marriage Counseling: Explaining vs. Excusing

If you can’t control your crap, then you shouldn’t be in a relationship. In my opinion, there’s no excuse for cheating.  Plain and simple.  This isn’t the first time I’ve said this. My previous post: Life is Short, Have an Affair?, I go off on a tangent about a site that allows you to do this easier.

I won’t even waste the muscle usage in my fingers to type the name of the website.

Anyway, every now and then I work with a couple that decides to work through the cheating. Now I’ll admit, its not easy work, and usually involves a decent amount of time to help them get through it. However, the dedicated couple can get through the breakdown of trust that occurs when one of them cheats.

What I see more often than not, is that the “cheatee” (the person that was cheated on) is looking for a reason why from the “cheater (do I have to explain this?)”

Problem is, as I explained earlier, there’s no excuse for cheating. However, there is a difference between Explaining and Excusing.

Explaining a problem makes reason. Excusing a problem gives reason.

See the difference? Explaining a problem helps us understand the process by which something like this happened. Excusing involves the “cheater” to be on the defensive, and causes the “cheatee” to be on the offensive.

It allows the cheatee ammunition.

And they should have it after all. The cheater has a big target on his/her back for being so stupid to begin with. However, the reason why I bring this up, is because finding an excuse is NOT going to help things.

If you want to know “why” to work through and improve the relationship, that’s one thing. If you’re just looking for more ammunition, why don’t you use what you have already? Its not like they didn’t give you a stockpile when you found the emails, text messages, pictures, reservations or any other incriminating evidence.

Same goes for the cheater. Seriously, do you honestly think excuses are going to help the situation? Doing some strong soul searching and understanding the reasons for your behavior, and discussing it in as non-accusing or assuming a way as possible is probably the best way to go (if you’re looking to fix the relationship that is).

What’s the point of this post?

The point is that if you are going to couples counseling for a cheating incident, and you want to make it work:


1.  Seek the explaination so you can move forward with your partner. If you want someone to take your side while you verbally beat the heck out of them, find a friend.

2. Use your therapist to help the two of you understand what happened so you can fix the problem. Are there angry feelings? Sure there are. But yelling at each other in session isn’t going to change the situation.

3. Go to individual therapy to manage these feelings. This way you can process the broken trust, develop coping skills for the anger and sadness, and then come to the couples session more focused.


1. Go to individual counseling and figure out why you did what you did. Its time to learn more about you and what happened here. It also means you have to learn about boundaries you need to set with yourself and others.

2. Once you figure that out, give an Explaination, not an Excuse. No sense defending what you did. For whatever reason, it was wrong. Resolve that, and explain it to yourself and to your partner.

3. Apologize, and keep doing it. Its not going to resolve all at once. It will take time, and you’re going to have to eat a heaping helping of humble pie.

Please understand, this is not to patronize or minimize cheating. Remember the beginning of the post: There’s no excuse for cheating. But I encourage the seeking of knowledge over the seeking of ammunition any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Its not going to be easy. It will be the hardest work you will probably be the hardest work you ever do. But if you have something worth saving, and are willing to save it, your relationship will be able to withstand anything.

How do I know? I’ve seen it.

Am I naive? Tell me what you think.